Dark Shadows (2012) Review:

It sucks.

It's Johnny Depp as a strange character... How droll.
It’s Johnny Depp as a strange character… How droll.

Cast: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloë Grace Moretz, et al…

Director: Tim Burton

Runtime: 113 minutes

Plot (taken from IMDb): An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.

Dark Shadows sees Tim Burton team up with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter yet again. This time for a camp romp based off a cult television series. Depp plays Barnabas Collins – an old vampire stuck in the past is awoken in the 1970s to find himself not knowing what to do with his run down mansion and failing fishing industry.

It’s a decent enough premise but it just never quite clicks. It’s a strange film largely thanks to its promising start. Indeed, the opening of the movie really sets you up for disappointment, which comes in due course. We are given a love triangle of sorts as the residing drama and it never feels like a strong enough story to hold the attention for 113 minutes.

At least Burton got the art right this time.
At least Burton got the art right this time.

The comedy in the film is simply not good enough (not awful, but not funny enough) to hold our attention either, Johnny Depp just does not deliver – with a character that seems perfect for his colourful CV. Since Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp appears to have been resting too heavily on his laurels – I think the best thing Tim Burton could have done with Dark Shadows is cast someone else as the leading man, at least that would have made for a more interesting flick.

That I feel is the big issue with the film, it plays itself too safe, I’d love to see Tim Burton make a film that does not sound like a film he would make. It’s dull, unoriginal and too long. Sure, Dark Shadows tries to be quirky, but it feels like it’s trying too hard to make itself interesting – with interesting characters.

As I said above, the premise is decent, but the characters within the premise are too cookie-cutter, there’s the strange geeky boy, the uninterested teenage girl who is into music and boys, their slightly bewildered mother and Johnny Depp. To strengthen this uninspiring cast of characters is Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) who plays a surprisingly decent villain with a penchant for crazy vampire sex. She adds a bit of fun into the film, but is only decent at best. Bella Heathcote’s Victoria Winters and Josette DuPres (the love interest for Johnny Depp) however is dull and fails to add anything worthwhile to the film.

Is that Helena Bonham Carter in a Tim Burton film, being a little odd? I never saw it coming!
Is that Helena Bonham Carter in a Tim Burton film, being a little odd? I never saw it coming!

In fact, at times, I found the film annoying – it has the air of something that thinks it is better than it is, when clearly it is worse than you want it to be. Nothing ever quite falls into place and Chloë Grace Moretz’s character in particular just comes across as annoying, with her resolution proving very, very underwhelming, coming from nowhere as almost a deus ex machina. There is one other positive with the film however; its campiness is fairly entertaining, lifting the movie from utterly terrible to what could be a guilty pleasure for some, but not your humble reviewer.


Dark Shadows is not terrible; it has its moments and a rather good opening. However, I cannot recommend the film based on a good opening that just serves up disappointment for the rest of the film and a couple of light laughs. Despite all of its shortcomings though, Dark Shadows remains watchable – I just wish Tim Burton would step outside his comfort zone every now and then.

If you want to watch a Tim Burton film about Johnny Depp, there are better ones out there.



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